Epilogue

I like books. I don’t mean I just like reading books. I mean I like books. It just feels wrong to me to read a book off of a computer screen. I like to turn the pages. I like to feel it in my hands. I like to find some odd piece of scrap paper or some random bookmark to hold my place until I can start reading again. I like to see books sitting on my bookshelf, whether I actually read them or not.

Because of this, I love to randomly cruise bookstores. I hardly ever buy anything. It’s odd. I can watch a movie multiple times and not get tired of it, but once I finish a book, well, I’ve finished it. I don’t pick it up and read it again. Nevertheless, I still like to rummage through bookstores, and occasionally I will actually spend a little money on something to read.

beyond beliefOne of my purchases last year was Josh Hamilton’s autobiography Beyond Belief. The book had been out for several years, so I was able to snag it cheap at the local Books-A-Million. Hamilton was still a member of the Texas Rangers when the book was published, before he signed a mega-deal with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2012. I had a little money with me and had always wanted to read it, so I bought the paperback edition.

By now, even non-baseball fans know Hamilton’s story of being a five-tool prospect to bottomed-out drug and alcohol addict who was booted out of baseball completely to born-again Christian who rose from the ashes of his own story to return to the major leagues and become a star player. It is a truly inspiring story, a light of hope for anyone who has ever sank to the depths of addiction and wondered if they could ever recover again.

On the left side of the book’s cover, there is a small, red circle. Typed in white letters are the words “Includes a New Chapter Updating Josh’s Journey.” This update comes in the form of an epilogue added to the end of the book. In the epilogue, Hamilton and his wife, Katie, recount his 2009 relapse, during which he was photographed shirtless in an Arizona bar with several women.

Unfortunately, the events described in that epilogue would not represent the last time Hamilton would relapse. Major League Baseball officials are currently debating whether or not to suspend Hamilton for admitting to abusing alcohol and cocaine this past February. At issue is whether the incident constitutes a violation of the drug treatment Hamilton was required to be a part of to be reinstated to baseball in 2006. He could be facing up to a year’s suspension from the game.

We Christians love heroes. We love to celebrate stories of recovery, and we love to push those who have those stories out in front of the crowd. When one of them falls, the public fallout can be vicious. Christians and non-Christians get angry. At the heart of their anger is this: That person claimed to be one thing and turned out to be another.

Obviously, Hamilton’s latest relapse is a stark reminder to Christians everywhere that no one is above a fall from grace. It is also a reminder of why people become Christians in the first place. We’re going to get it wrong. We’re going to stumble from time to time. Sometimes we may not even be stumbling; we may just want to leave the narrow way for a while. Whatever the case may be, we are not going to be perfect.

A greater issue to me, though, is the point I mentioned earlier about the image Christians attach today to their heroes. Barnabas Piper wrote the following words in article for WORLD Magazine:

Christians often try too hard to find heroes. There is a distinct difference between appreciating someone’s story of redemption and making them a poster boy of faith. In doing so we put the emphasis on their lives and their works, and take it off of God’s grace. Grace is the differentiating characteristic between Christianity and every other religion, and when we downplay it we actually lose our witness. So how do we respond when one of our heroes relapses? We see ourselves in it and recognize the universal, deep need for God’s grace. This is what sets us apart and it’s what Josh Hamilton (and you) need now.

I remember talking with a friend once about this particular issue. I told him I thought it was interesting that all of the Christian testimonies I hear are from people who have totally overcome their issues. Wouldn’t it be odd, I asked, to hear a speaker say that they were still struggling with sin? No one would want to hear that, even though it would be totally identifiable for scores of people. People forget that Josh Hamilton had to be accompanied by a handler everywhere he went, couldn’t have cash on him, and had to submit to weekly urine tests to keep his job. It’s not like he was an addict and walked away scot-free. That seemed to be how we all wanted to view him, though.

There could always be an epilogue to anyone’s inspiring story. King David did a lot of wonderful things … then he saw a woman bathing on her roof. Noah was the only righteous man on Earth … then he got drunk. Hamilton’s story continued after the epilogue. Everyone’s does, even if they fall a thousand more times. Whatever Hamilton’s ultimate punishment may be, the grace that saved him will always be there. Just like it is for the rest of us.

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And

andIs there any more demanding word in the English language than and?

Take this weekend, for example. My mother- and father-in-law graciously offered to watch my wife and I’s brood of five children (which includes our 1-year-old daughter) from Friday night until Sunday morning. We’ve had a recent stretch of dry weather where I live, so my usual Saturday ritual of mowing the yard didn’t need to be performed. That meant we essentially had no schedule or obligations except those we set for ourselves.

Knowing this, my mind nearly exploded with possibilities. I wanted to go out with my wife and put a new string on my guitar and get outside and ride my bicycle and maybe see a movie and sleep in Saturday morning and shop for a couple of things and write a new blog post and catch up on my emails and

Well, obviously, I didn’t get all that done, mainly because no human being can possibly cram that many activities into an approximately 36-hour period. Time is not my enemy, however, when it comes to achieving most goals. My problem is I don’t know what to focus on, so I haphazardly bounce from one objective to another. I want to be a good husband and a good father and a writer and a performing musician and hang out with the guys and be in good shape and

This may sound like the mark of a very ambitious and successful person, but my experience has been much the opposite. I have spent much of my life pecking away at things and never quite becoming proficient at any of them. This tendency even led me to consider I might have Attention Deficit Disorder before I was diagnosed with Chronic Depressive Disorder. With either disorder, though, thoughts can become jumbled and priorities can be difficult to set. It’s not that I’m trying to overload myself; it’s just that every single option seems just as important as the other, and I can’t focus because it seems as if I need to complete them all at the same time.

I believe this way of thinking can lead a person in one of two directions: They can either work themselves to death trying to stay on top of everything on their list, or they can view the mountain of expectations they’ve placed on themselves and lock down and not do anything. Personally, I have had more experiences with the latter than the former. There have been times when I have felt so behind that I just didn’t even want to start, which only made things worse for me when actual effort had to be put forth.

A friend of mine has recently told me several times, “You think too much about things. Stop over-analyzing. Just take the moment for what it is.” They’re right, of course. I do analyze the crap out of everything (which you’ve probably picked up on by now from reading this blog). I have a very difficult time shutting down the noise in my brain and just doing something. I did have a brief revelation of what that might be like this weekend, however.

guardians_poster_via_marvelOne of the goals I did achieve was going with my wife to see Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Saturday afternoon. While I enjoyed the heck out of the movie, I can tell you, Shakespeare, it is not. Once I got past trying to figure out character motivations and comic book history and what we might do after the movie and where the movie ranked on my list of all-time favorite comic book films (and, believe me, such a list does indeed exist), my brain sort of entered this zone where it was simply having fun watching a darn good popcorn flick. I was there to be entertained, and I was. Simple, right?

I remember years ago hearing someone on sports radio talk about former Major League Baseball player Manny Ramirez’s ability to hit in virtually any situation. Now, for anyone who doesn’t remember, Ramirez was not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed. One of the first articles I ever read about him was in Sports Illustrated and featured a moment where he and his agent were driving around one day and Ramirez (who played for the Cleveland Indians at the time) asked the agent if he could afford a house they drove by. The man literally had no concept of the money he was making.

This particular person’s perspective on the radio that day was that because basically very little was going on in Ramirez’s head when Manny-Ramirezhe stepped to the plate in a game, all of his focus was on just hitting the baseball. He didn’t have any distractions or complex goals or stats he was trying to keep up with; he was just trying to put the bat on the ball. And, even though he paved his own way out of baseball eventually because he wouldn’t stop using banned substances, he was remarkably successful as a hitter. That was what he did; he just hit.

Sometimes I wish I could be more like that, but I don’t think it’s possible for me. What I can do is dedicate myself to one decision at a time. I tried making lists for a while, and I may have to go back to that eventually. It’s odd that in an age where people seem to be trying to utilize more of their brain power I’m actually trying to shut some of mine down, but it’s the truth. I’m tired of standing in front of my closet spending five minutes trying to decide what T-shirt to wear. Some things just have to matter more than others.

That checks the blog post off my list for this weekend. Now all I have to do is go to bed and go to sleep and get prepared in my head for tomorrow and … well, actually, maybe I’ll just focus on the first two.